On our recent trip to Maui we tackled the Road to Hana and we took the back way. I’m here to tell you that it is the only way to go and I absolutely recommend you try it for yourself!
The back way to Hana is the Piilani Highway. Many guide books (and your rental car agency) will probably discourage you from taking it all the way to Hana. The truth is that the first 90% of the road is paved and easy to drive, the last 10% is far more treacherous, but still not that bad.
We left our hotel in Wailea at 5:30am. Leaving early is key in your Road to Hana adventure. What’s great about being from the east coast, is that waking up early came naturally because of the time change. To give you an idea about how long the trip takes, we arrived at Haleakala National Park just before 8am. We passed exactly 2 cars on our way there.
By taking the road less traveled we were treated to an amazing sunrise and unbelievable views. We were also able to start the Pipiwai Trail early and finished it before lunch time. Then we had the rest of the day to work our way back down the traditional road to Hana. Since we were going against traffic, our stops were not crowded and traveling was easy.
Being one of the first cars to arrive at Haleakala National Park and start the Pipiwai Trail means that when we reached Waimoku Falls we had the whole place to ourselves. Seriously, we saw another couple on our way back down, but for at least 45 minutes, the falls were all ours!
As I mentioned, the Piilani Highway isn’t for everyone. The last 7 miles before you get to the national park are unpaved, one lane and can be very rough on your vehicle. We were there just a few days after Hurricane Olivia went through the area and you could see where there had been some landslides and road closures. We even encountered a cow just walking down the road at one point. If you’re going to go, pay attention to the weather, leave early and be sure to check for road closures.
Make sure you bring snacks, fill up on gas and take time to enjoy the ride. The Road to Hana is all about the journey, not the destination.